Division II: Means of Officer Signal Not Essential Element of Eluding
If you’ve ever seen Run Ronnie Run, or any Mr. Show skit involving Ronnie Dobbs, or even just watched an episode of cops, you’ve seen something like this. Report of an altercation. Police responding to the scene see a vehicle that matches the description. As the (presumably mustachioed) police officer was about to make a stop (on the presumed to be 1985 Pontiac Thunderbird), the (presumably muletted) driver takes off, after a ways crashes the vehicle, and runs, only to be caught.
So when you charge someone, a prosecutor files what is called in ‘Information’. This is designed to give the person an idea of what they are being charged with, and must contain the essential elements of the crime. Here, the information read:
Leldon Roy Pittman . . . did unlawfully, feloniously, and wil[l]fully fail or refuse to immediately bring his vehicle to a stop and drive his vehicle in a reckless manner while attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, after being given a visual or audible signal to bring his vehicle to a stop by a uniformed officer in a vehicle equipped with lights and sirens, contrary to RCW 46. 61. 024(1).
So was that deficient? It has to list the essential elements of the crime. Basically, what does the State have to prove to convict you. The actual statute reads:
Any driver of a motor vehicle who willfully fails or refuses to immediately bring his or her vehicle to a stop and who drives his or her vehicle in a reckless manner while attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, after being given a visual or audible signal to bring the vehicle to a stop, shall be guilty of a class C felony. The signal given by the police officer may be by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren. The officer giving such a signal shall be in uniform and the vehicle shall be equipped with lights and sirens.
So the real difference between the two is whether putting “visual or audible signal” instead of “signal given by the police officer may be by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren.” Here, the word may in the statute means that its not necessarily a necessary element of the crime, it is just a list of means by which to measure whether a proper signal was disregarded. Since its not an essential element, the information was proper, and the charges stand.
While the lawyers at Issaquah Legal Services do not currently practice criminal law, we expect to add an Issaquah Attorney practicing in the area soon. In the meantime, please contact us for a referral to other qualified attorneys.